Ready for a sustainable and socially conscious overhaul to your underwear drawer? Save money and save the planet with these tax-free purchasing options when you buy sustainable period products with HSA & FSA money.
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Over the last few years, there’s been a real focus on the advancement and empowerment of women. Along with this, a new generation of young, confident ladies have become big players among a community of entrepreneurs with creative and innovative solutions to issues that most men just don’t know how to solve.
The types of problems women are tackling for themselves run the gamut from everything to shopping and makeup to time management and networking. But lately, period products have definitely been a popular market for change (and given that not much in that department has changed in decades, it’s probably about time).
Sustainable period products are one of the items topping that list of spaces where women create solutions. And it’s not a moment too soon. My good friend, Sarah Robertson-Barnes, a long-time low-waste living advocate, says “On average, a person who menstruates will spend 6 years of their life with their period. That handful of days every month really adds up! This works out to approximately 10,000 tampons, pads, and/or panty liners ending up in landfills per menstruating person.” Reusable period products like period panties, menstrual cups, and cloth panty liners can significantly reduce the amount of single-use period products that end in our already overflowing landfills.
More products today than in the past
The market for sustainable period products – from period underwear to menstrual cups to products just for teens and more – has grown considerably just in the last handful of years. I’ve watched reusable period pants go from basic and bulky to a wide range of styles for different preferences and body types. There are more sustainable tampon companies.
Sustainable period products just for teens
Some brands even have sustainable period products just for teens. I so wish I had known about period underwear when I was younger, even just as a backup to prevent embarrassing incidents (or simply ease the stress about leaks and stains).
Do what works for you when it comes to period products
I’m not advocating that we all do away with single-use period products. With so many different bodies, lifestyles, and period experiences, we need a variety of products. But even if we can swap out some (maybe half?) of our single-use period products with reusable or more sustainable alternatives, that’s a huge win.
Maybe you start using a menstrual cup or period panties just on days when the flow is light and it feels more manageable. I can’t even fathom trying to use these products in high school, for example, on heavy days when you might need to change your underwear. Maybe you swap to plastic-free tampons. Maybe you start by using reusable products only at night when you’re sleeping. There are a variety of options to consider.
Period products are expensive!
In addition to the environmental benefits (and many would argue experiential benefits too) of using reusable period products, they can also save you money in the long run. Period products are expensive, and prices continue to rise!
We’ve seen a growing movement to address period poverty (the inability to afford proper period products), the Pink Tax (sales taxes on period products as if they were luxury items when they should be considered necessities like food that are often not taxed), and period product accessibility. But still, studies show that 25-40% of people who need period products struggle to afford them.
Buy sustainable period products with HSA & FSA money
Here’s the most important part – no matter what type of period products you’re buying. Did you know that (if you live in the United States) you can use a Flexible Spending Account (FSA) or Health Savings Account (HSA) money for period products?
FSAs and HSAs are tax-free savings accounts through which you can contribute money to pay medical and dental expenses, including various over-the-counter health and medical expenses for things like pain reliever medications, bandages, and period products. These accounts can help make period products more affordable for those who have access to these accounts.
The rule went into effect a couple of years ago, and unfortunately, I totally missed it at the time. But if you are eligible to contribute to an FSA or HSA, this is a great way to use tax-free money to choose a more sustainable swap that’s good for your body, your budget, and the planet.
It’s really easy to use FSA or HSA money to buy period products. After you have the account set up with your employer, just pay for the products with your FSA or HSA debit or credit card instead of your normal card. Save the receipt in case you need it for tax purposes to prove that the purchase fits within the guardrails of FSA and HSA spending guidelines, and you’ll be all set.
THINX shared more about how to buy sustainable period products with HSA & FSA money on their site. Cora includes similar information for buying their sustainable period products using HSA & FSA accounts. The same general principles apply when purchasing from other brands online or in-store.
Sustainable period product brands to consider
I’ve tried a few different reusable period panties, and there are definitely some differences between brands. I’ll get to them below. I use them mostly for backup on heavier days (in conjunction with better-brand tampons) and use them as a stand-alone period solution on lighter days.
I haven’t tried menstrual cups (not my jam right now), but I have plenty of friends who absolutely love them. Sarah can tell you all about her experience using menstrual cups, and if you let her, she definitely will! I hear different brands have pretty different fits, so sometimes it takes trying a couple of different brands. But most of those I know who have converted are raving fans.
Knix Sustainable Period Products
Knix period panties are the ones I most often reach for from my drawer. I have a variety of styles. They are a little thicker than some other brands which means they do their job a little better. I’ve had my current pairs for over a year, and they are still in great condition. If I was recommending just one brand to try, I would recommend Knix. They also have a line of products just for teens.
As for washing them, it’s best to rinse them out after you wear them. Then you can run them through your normal washing cycle or hand wash them (best practice for underwear, but I’ve never taken that route). I let them air dry on a drying rack instead of putting them in the washer, and then they’re back in the drawer.
THINX Sustainable Period Products
On a mission to break the taboo about periods and help girls around the world get the critical health education they deserve, THINX shares loud and proud about their period underwear that can either replace or supplement traditional tampons. The “high-tech” underwear can absorb up to two tampons worth of flow.
I have these and wear them, sometimes as a supplement to a tampon and other times as a replacement, depending on the day. They’re reusable (and washable with your regular laundry), so they offer one more small step toward eco-friendly, zero-waste goals.
It’s been almost two years since I initially wrote this post. I still have my THINX underwear, and they’re seriously the best. I would recommend them to anyone, any day.
THINX has had its fair share of public relations and product issues regarding PFAS (a toxic forever chemical) showing up in its products. I suspect this issue has passed since the lawsuit started many years ago, but PFAS is an issue in just about everything we touch, eat, breathe, and encounter in life these days. Whether or not their products are right for you is a personal decision and will be different for everyone.
Cora Sustainable Period Products
Cora is a B Corporation that makes a variety of sustainable period products from 100% organic cotton tampons to period underwear, menstrual cups, and more. Unlike some other more sustainable period product companies, you can find their products in mainstream stores like Target which helps make them more accessible.
I’ve only used their tampons. I have a subscription, which I like. I can customize the types of tampons I want to receive, skip a shipment if I have enough supply, and modify my subscription whenever I’d like. I’ve been using Cora tampons for about a year or two and have been really happy with the quality.
In addition to their own products (and like many sustainable period product companies), Cora contributes to a variety of initiatives to make sustainable period products more accessible to those who struggle with period poverty.
I have tried a few different brands of sustainable tampons, and Cora is definitely my favorite so far.
Powerful Women Empowering Women
Each of these companies is helping to drive a paradigm shift in how products for women evolve and serve our needs better. For so many years, the market for these types of products lay fairly dormant. Women, myself included, didn’t think to challenge the status quo; we didn’t ask for something better.
The founders of these companies decided to stop settling. They saw solutions for better, simpler, more sustainable, more comfortable, and more effective alternatives, and they brought those visions to life for all of us to appreciate and enjoy.
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Jen Panaro, founder and editor-in-chief of Honestly Modern, is a self-proclaimed composting nerd and an advocate for sustainable living for modern families. In her spare time, she’s a serial library book borrower, a messy gardener, and a mom of two boys who spends a lot of time in hockey rinks and on baseball fields.
You can find more of her work at Raising Global Kidizens, an online space to help parents and caregivers raise the next generation of responsible global citizens.